For the past few years the Paper Guild, one of the Amon Carter’s collector groups, has traveled to San Antonio to attend the annual print fair hosted there by the McNay Art Museum. We went there this past weekend, and in addition to attending the fair, we visited two remarkable private collections of American art. In the photograph below, we are getting a tour of one of America's most important collections of African-American art: the Harriet and Harmon Kelley collection. Some of you may remember that the museum featured their collection a few years ago. The Kelleys have searched high and low, with the help of curators, peers, and art dealers, for the best works that convey the creative achievements of artists of color.
Collecting art is at the core of what art museums do, and the collectors in any community are vital to that aspect of a museum’s mission. In this way, institutions and individual collectors are part of a symbiotic relationship. The Kelleys, for instance, not only have given important works to the San Antonio Museum of Art but also have inspired others within their community to begin collecting.
The collector groups at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art—the Paper Guild; the Council, which focuses on paintings and sculpture; and the Stieglitz Circle, which focuses on photographs—are filled with a similar spirit of mutual exchange. Trips such as last weekend’s sojourn to South Texas are a part of an education experience, where the example of others becomes a point of inspiration. If you would like to know more about becoming a member of one of these groups, please write to me. It is truly rewarding to participate.
Recent posts from the folks at Good have offered some great ideas for contributing your talents to your neighbors and the world. This post, which urges folks to create or appreciate art, really hit close to home. Readers who don't consider themselves artistic (like me) can find lots of options and ideas to get involved with art by just scrolling through the poll offered at the bottom. How considerate of them for putting the suggestion to visit a museum or gallery at the top of the list! I'm heading up to galleries to look at this lovely work right now.
Alexander Stirling Calder (1870–1945)
An American Stoic, 1912
A week ago, the Amon Carter opened a major exhibition focusing on Charles Russell’s watercolors. As one visitor to the show related to me, “I have been a fan of Russell for many years but never realized that he painted so many watercolors.” Part of the strength of this exhibition is that it brings together nearly 100 of the artist’s works in the medium, providing a comprehensive view of Russell’s subject matter and technical progression.
There is also power in more intimate, focused art exhibitions. In two weeks, we will be opening an exhibition on John Singer Sargent that includes just four works, all on loan from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. In the midst of a historic renovation and expansion, the Clark has generously loaned masterworks from their collection to institutions around the world—including our neighbor the Kimbell Art Museum, which will host a concurrent exhibition of the Clark’s holdings entitled The Age of Impressionism: Great French Paintings from the Clark.
John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), Fumée d'Ambre Gris (Smoke of Ambergris), 1880, oil on canvas, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA, image © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA, 1955.15
The Amon Carter’s dossier exhibition, Sargent’s Youthful Genius: Paintings from the Clark, centers on the artist’s Fumee d’Ambre Gris (Smoke of Ambregris). Painted in 1880, the iconic work not only evokes an exotic mystery but shows Sargent’s capacity for immense subtlety as a painter. A study in whites and creams, the painting is, as the artist himself said, about color. The volumes it speaks on the subject are a distinct pleasure to behold. The exhibition opens March 11—don’t miss it.
I have fallen a week behind! Last week was the meeting of our museum’s board of trustees, so perhaps that explains why.
Our most recent acquisitions were presented during that board meeting. One notable addition to the museum’s collection is Larry Sultan’s large-scale photograph Novato, from his series Homeland, which focused on the landscape near his home in Corte Madera, California.
Larry Sultan (1946–2009), Novato, 2009, dye coupler print, Purchase with funds provided by the Stieglitz Circle of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, courtesy of Estate of Larry Sultan/Wirtz Gallery
This important series was the last the artist completed before his untimely death in 2009 from cancer. Sultan hired day laborers to pose as actors in a semi-uncultivated landscape that abuts the edge of a housing community. The multiple layers of meaning in this work are riveting, but what struck me when I saw it in San Francisco for the first time was its pastoral qualities. It reminded me of another work in the Amon Carter’s collection: Thomas Cole’s The Hunter’s Return, painted in 1845.
Thomas Cole (1801–1848), The Hunter's Return, 1845, oil on canvas
The settled landscape emerging out of the “wilderness” in both works is one point of intersection, but I would be interested to know what you think. What points of similarity or difference do you see? Write me in the comments section, and I will respond. And if you would like to see the Sultan work, stay tuned. I will let you know in my next blog when the opportunity will be available to you.
Yesterday library volunteer Jodie Sanders unearthed this turn-of-the-twentieth century article on photographing livestock, particularly sheep and cattle. It comes from the 1899 issue of The American Annual of Photography, an example from the many specialized periodicals on photography that the library collects. We thought we should share this discovery for all you folk taking pictures at the stock show across the street!
Click on the image below to download:
As someone who works in a museum, I can't tell you how many times I have been asked what it is I really do all day. Behind the quiet galleries you see when you visit, there is a constant buzz of activity across the many departments that make up the museum. We wanted to take a moment to introduce you to Jenna Madison, the newest member of the Amon Carter staff. Check back soon to meet other members of the staff as we give you a behind-the-scenes look at what really happens during our version of a nine-to-five day.
I have been on the road now for several days, traveling from Fort Worth to New York City and on to San Francisco, where I am attending the mid-winter meeting of the Association of Art Museum Directors. More than 240 directors from the United States, Canada, and Mexico have gathered to discuss the issues that our cultural industry is facing. As the economic and demographic trends change in urban communities, art museums are not only positioned to increase their value as destinations for education and entertainment, but also to think about new ways of doing business. Like any industry, creative and innovative thinking is the core of leadership.
Right now, I am in a seminar on how to motivate innovative thinking to meet the needs of the communities we serve. My group is exploring ways to engage younger audiences in the life of the art museum. The facilitators are encouraging us to do the unexpected. One of the ideas we are discussing is a “speed dating” event for young people on Valentine’s Day where participants pick their favorite works of art as a starting point for compatibility. Would you come to such an event? I would be very interested in ideas that you might have for ways to attract young individuals and couples to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Enter them in the comment section; you never know, we might just put it into action!
Although 2011 marked our celebration of the museum’s 50th anniversary, I am a firm believer that any anniversary of significance should last for at least eighteen months. So we will continue to celebrate, even as we turn fifty-one.
For me, our celebration continued when I returned from my holiday adventures to find on my desk an advance copy of the book that will accompany our exhibition, Romance Maker: The Watercolors of Charles M. Russell, which opens here February 11. Rick Stewart, the author of the book and curator of the project, tells a lively story of Russell’s tremendous achievement working with a medium that is subtle and variable. Every watercolor in the exhibition is reproduced in a stunning plate section in the book that proves what Rick claims in his essay: Russell was a true artistic genius as a watercolorist.
Holding this book made me realize yet again the strength of the museum’s collection and our commitment to find new ways to deepen our understanding of art that seems so familiar. Charlie Russell is one of the artists that we have long celebrated. He was a favorite of the museum’s namesake, Amon G. Carter. But never before has his work as a watercolorist been explored—he was an innovator in this medium. Finally, that story is available for all in the book that I hold. If you are a lover of watercolor, or a fan of Charlie Russell, this volume belongs in your library. Come see the works in person, then visit our store to take them home with you.